attack: 1d20 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 2 + 1 = 5
damage: 1d8 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 2 + 1 = 6
...the dice hate me. At least it sounds like you're having an equally difficult time.
By now, Shanoa is almost in tears. "Get off of him!" she shreaks as she draws her morningstar and swings it at the menace.
Father Grimburrow continues to struggle with the creature, and he maintains his grip around the monster's wrist.
You cannot hear any more from the first acolyte, presumably he made it into the Temple.
The other acolyte has ceased his struggling and he lies unmoving on the floor.
The monster gnashes its teeth at the priest and strains to free from his grip. It manages to pull free, but it overbalances and leans too far backward to attempt anything else for a few seconds. Father Grimburrow remains underneath it, kept in place by its other hand on his head.
Dice have turned a bit for me, much to Father Grimburrow's benefit!
Sorry for the delay. Lost power for over 3 hours despite being sunny out.
Sense Motive: 1d20 ⇒ 15
Oorin looks around, "We need to make preperations for laying Michael to rest. I confess I know only a little of his faith or the customs of this land regarding such things."
Shanoa grits her teeth and swings her morningstar with both hands, putting all her strength into it. "I said GET OFF HIM!"
Swift action - change judgement to destruction for +1 to damage
attack: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (19) + 2 = 21
damage: 1d8 + 3 + 1 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 3 + 1 + 1 = 7
Finally! a decent roll!
|Karl the Bastard|
Once they are upstairs, Karl leads Arthur to his room where he gathers up the rest of his weapons and adventuring gear while they talk.
What happened to you this morning? Where did you go rushing off to? Did you discover something new? What was in that crate?
|The Slaughter Priest|
** spoiler omitted **
|Karl the Bastard|
Excellent work my friend! Karl claps Arthur on the back. If we have to face these ghosts, we'll need every edge we can get. But, I thought the warden's wife was dead? How can she be a target for this next killing?
I assume Oorin goes upstairs with the others after his comments about making arrangements for Michael; he can catch up with the others after my post
He leans back against the wall outside Michael's room, "And now that Kendra is calmer, why don't you fill me in on everything else you were going to tell me? We've got a few minutes before she comes up here looking for us."
Father Grimburrow takes advantage of your attack and manages to push the monster off of him. Putting one of his hands over his mangled neck, he scurries backward away from the beast.
You don't hear anything from the direction of the Temple.
The second acolyte remains unmoving on the floor.
The creature rolls over and stands up, leering at you, "You will pay for that, Rose!" It steps toward you, moving to block you from escaping.
Shanoa, your turn; the creature's arm where you hit it hangs by its side, it seems you have seriously wounded it.
I'm assuming I get an attack of opportunity while it stands up, since I was already in melee range - also I forgot I had been given a masterwork morningstar - updated my profile and fixed the +3 to attack instead of +2. I don't think it would've made any difference on my previous actions.
attack of opportunity: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (8) + 3 = 11
damage: 1d8 + 3 + 1 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 3 + 1 + 1 = 6
attack: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (20) + 3 = 23
confirm crit: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (8) + 3 = 11
damage: 1d8 + 3 + 1 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 3 + 1 + 1 = 9
Shanoa swings haphazardly at the creature as it stands up but fails to connect, then steadies herself. "Be gone, fiend!" She brings her weapon once again down on it, flesh ripping and crushing from the blow.
|The Slaughter Priest|
Father Grimburrow tries to speak to you, but it comes out as a bloody gargle. He strives to move closer to you, made more difficult by the horrible wounds he has suffered.
Outside the room, you hear people running toward you.
What would you like to do?
Awesome roll, congrats!
It won't change anything, but I do have a slight retcon - your judgements would not have worked during the fight. There was something that acts as a small anti-magic shell, and it would have prevented the judgements from functioning. So for Shanoa's benefit, she tried to activate them, but nothing happened.
I'm assuming the anti-magic field is now gone?
Shanoa sighs heavily, then turns to Grimburrow. Seeing his wounded state, she drops her weapon and rushes to his side. "Hold on! We'll get you help." Then placing her hands on his wounds, she speaks softly "Milani's grace pass through me to you."
cure light wounds: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (8) + 1 = 9
This is her intention if her spell works. If it doesn't due to the anti-magic shell still being in effect, she'll stay kneeling over Grimburrow and weeping until help arrives, doing her best to stop the bleeding.
As soon as the wounds start to close she she gets up and runs to the wounded acolyte. "Oh, please don't be dead." She again places her hands on his body. "Milani, please don't let this man die."
heal (if needed): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (9) + 3 = 12
cure light wounds: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
Clearing his throat again he begins. Well Sheriff, we discovered some information that may have some bearing on the strangeness that has been going on of late. At the time of the fire at the prison, the prisoners had rioted and taken control over a portion of the facility. Interred in the prison at that time were five particularly vile criminals going by the rather melodramatic monikers of Father Charlatan, The Piper of Ilmarsh, The Lopper, The Mosswater Marauder and Splatter Man."
"The first two of those," he continues, "we couldn't discover anything about who they were."
"The other three are of the most immediate interest. The Mosswater Marauder was a dwarf who went insane upond discovering his wife's infidelity. He smashed her skull and then became convinced he could "reconstruct" her if he found the right skull parts. He was captured after killing over 20 people trying to find them. I'm sure I don't need to remind you how the good Professer was killed"
"The Lopper had the rather simplistic method of, well, lopping off peoples heads with an axe. This bears an eerie similarity to the illusion or spirit that attacked Karl atop the barn."
This had better be one open-minded Sheriff, Oorin can't help but think.
"Splatter Man's motif was to slowly spell out a chosen victim's name, letter by letter, in blood before savagely killing them. Not to sound alarmist but if anyone in town has a name that begins with the letter "V", well, it couldn't hurt to keep an extra eye on him or her."
Oorin sighs, just talking out loud about all of this was depressing. "It would easy to disniss this as coincidence but that's three "coincidences" right there. If we knew more about the other two, I bet it would be five and that would be five too many."
Oorin lapses into silence feeling that, even if the Sheriff is inclined to believe them, it's a lot to take in at once.
|Karl the Bastard|
Karl nods along as Oorin speaks, and as the gnome finishes, he adds One other thing Sheriff, when we found Michael, before I went outside and saw the stirges flying away, I heard something. The rest of the group can tell you, I got the eyes and ears of my father's people, precious little else though. But, I heard the sound of a flute before I went into Michael's room. I'd stake my life on it. We don't know much of this Piper of Ilmarsh, excepting his name, but pipes and flutes are not that far apart...
A few seconds later, a host of people come running into the room, spreading out between the older priest and the acolyte. In a flurry of activity, prayers to Pharasma ring out and spells begin flying. A man wearing chainmail and carrying a longsword greets Shanoa with his fist over his heart, "Sir Loram, Captain of Scarabguard here in Ravengro. Can you tell me what happened?"
He stands up, "I have to admit, I'm not entirely convinced, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt for now. You proved yourself by finding that blood trail, not to mention your association with Professor Lorrimor."
"I'm tempted to head over to Gibs' house now to haul him off to jail, but with everything going on, I'm not sure that's the best course of action. Given what you have discovered, what do you think?"
Oorin is silent for a moment before adding, "Also, I've arranged for a, ah, diviner...of sorts...to meet us here at lunch and see if that points us in any direction."
|Karl the Bastard|
Maybe if we had eyes on Gibs, we could learn more. I could try it myself, but if I'm seen, well, let's just say that I'd rather not sprout any crossbow bolts in the near future.
Karl furrows his brow in thought. Arthur, didn't you say you had some files, records from the jail? Maybe there's a clue in there. I'm not much of a reader myself, but some of us, he nods at Oorin, have lots of book learning. That might be the place to look next, before we turn to spiritualism that is.
Shanoa stands up as the captain and others arrive. "I'm Shanoa, priestess of Milani. This...corpse," pointing to what's left of it, "became animated and attacked the good Father Grimburrow and this acolyte here. I managed to dispatch it, but not before it did him serious harm." As the adrenaline starts to fade, Shanoa feels at once weak and faint, dropping to her knee and trying to keep the room from spinning. "Also, there was something strange. Grimburrow is aged, but an accomplished cleric who should have been able to deal with undead such as this with ease. Yet something prevented him from acting - I saw him try to cast spells to no effect. I felt it too, though it's gone now. Perhaps he can tell you more when he wakes. I'm only glad he didn't fare worse." She looks back at the other acolyte. "Is he...will he be alright?"
"As for keeping an eye on Gibs, why don't I do one better. I heard about what happened at the graveyard. I'll go pay him a visit, talk to him a bit about keeping his nose clean, staying away from Ms. Lorrimor... that kind of thing. After that, I'll have the deputies make and extra loop on their patrol to pass by his house twice as often. It's not great, but it's something I can do."
He turns and looks back at Michael, "As for his remains, if your friend doesn't ask somebody at the Temple to come collect him, I'll make sure it happens as soon as possible."
"If there is nothing else, I'll bid you all farewell and see myself out."
Sheriff Caeler will talk longer if any of you have further questions or suggestions, but otherwise, he leaves and heads back to his office.
Oorin, yes, it's about ten in the morning, so you should have two hours.
He looks back at Father Grimburrow, "I'm no healer, but I think he'll make it, though he may be weak for a time. That thing tore into him really bad. He's lucky you were here, if that creature had a few more seconds, it would have killed him. I guess we're lucky it was just a dumb animated corpse and not one of the more powerful ones - those are terrible. You may find this hard to believe, but some of them can actually speak to the living!" He makes the holy sign of Pharasma across his chest as he finishes speaking.
"The corpse in question was previously a criminal, and we were using a spell to communicate with it. I assure you, however, no other spell was cast that would have thus animated it - and I'll tell you, it was actually a vicious fiend, intelligent and talking, with a dark fire in its eyes. It took 3 vials of holy water like they were nothing, and only finally succumbed to a few good bashes from my morningstar," she says, patting the handle of her weapon.
Roland has been quiet for the past little while, trying to take in everything that's been discussed. The prospect of study seems to snap him out of his reverie.
"Ah, yes, Oorin, perhaps I, too, could be of some help with that."
He also digs into reading through the files Arthur returned with, helping to get through the stack before the Harrower arrives around noon.
Things starting to get back to normal on my end. May not be able to post tomorrow, but by Wednesday I should be back to my usual level of contribution.
|Karl the Bastard|
After the Sheriff leaves, Karl sits down with Oorin and helps reading the files. The big man reads much more slowly than the little gnome, but still does his best to help.
Uh, Oorin, I didn't tell the Sheriff anything about the Whispering Way. I'm not sure why, I just didn't. Do you think we should have said something about them?
"Though it seems unlikely that the Sheriff is one of them, anything is possible. Besides, if the Sheriff starts making "official" inquires into the Way, it wouldn't be hard to figure out that he learned of them through us. I'm sure their agents already know we're here but they don't know that we're deliberately investigating them. The longer we can keep it that way the better, I think."
Oorin pauses from his reading. "I'm still not entirely sure what to ask the Harrower, assuming she's not a fake, of course. It's like not having enough information to know what questions to ask." He shakes his head and gets back to reading, muttering in Gnomish under his breath.
|The Slaughter Priest|
After clearing most of the crate, Arthur finds one important letter, while Oorin opens an envelope to find another. Details about the final two prisoners:
Father Charlatan (Sefick Corvin): Of the five notorious prisoners, only Father Charlatan was not technically a murderer, yet his crimes were so blasphemous that several churches demanded he be punished to the full extent of Ustalavic law. Although he claimed to be an ordained priest of any number of faiths, Father Corvin was in fact a traveling con artist who used faith as a mask and a means to bilk the faithful out of money in payment for false miracles or cures. He became known as Father Charlatan after his scheme was exposed and his Sczarni accomplices murdered a half-dozen city guards in an attempt to make good the group’s escape.
The Piper of Illmarsh (real name unknown): Before he snatched his victims, the Piper taunted his targets with a mournful dirge on his flute. He preferred to paralyze lone victims by dosing their meals with lich dust and then allowed his pet stirges to drink the victims dry of blood.
The Lopper - Vance Saetressle
The Mosswater Marauder - Ispin Onyxcudgel
The Splatter Man - Hean Feramin
Sorry Shanoa, I tried to post this last night but I guess it got eaten by the forum monster
He puts his hand to his forehead as if easing a pain. Glancing back to you, he smiles briefly, ”Apologies, I do not mean to imply you as anything but a hero for saving our beloved Father. I believe your words, my confusion comes from the fact that everything you say should not be possible.”
Another man dressed as Sir Loram comes over and speaks in his ear. The Captain nods solemnly and claps his comrade on the shoulder. ”Our young friend did not make it. He sustained a wound to his belly that was too much for him to endure.”
”So Shanoa, you have our thanks. We are going to retire to the Temple to tend Father Grimburrow and our deceased. I will also have word sent to our various chapters across Ustalav with the information you provided to see if we can figure out exactly what you faced. Please, walk with me and I will escort you to the door.”
Shanoa is free to continue asking questions, but it’s clear that Sir Loram has quite a bit on his mind since her revelations about the creature, and he would prefer it if she took her leave. He is not rude by any means, but he makes it plain that he has much to do given the attack that just happened. He asks if she is staying in Ravengro, and assures her he will send updates as needed if he hears or discovers more about the creature and/or Father Grimburrow's condition.
As she reflects on her knowledge of undead creatures, she cannot place what she faced into a category. Several are strong and possess intelligence. Vampires are certainly known for feasting upon the living, as are ghouls and other forms. It moved faster than a zombie, but appeared corporeal so it was not a ghost or wraith. No, she does not know what this creature may be, despite her breadth and depth of knowledge.
A nice way of saying she hasn’t ever encountered or read anything about this monster
Shanoa feels a dark pang of guilt when she learns the young man died. That's two deaths today, and I could have prevented this one. She gets up and walks with the Captain away from the gruesome scene. "Don't worry, I was just as surprised to see it with my own eyes. I'm well studied on the subject and have never heard of any undead creature like that. And now we have one more death on our hands - I'm terribly sorry I wasn't able to get to him in time - I wasn't able to tend to him while the monster was attacking Father Grimburrow." As they reach the road, she turns. "Please, when the good father is recovered enough to take visitors, would you send for me? I'm currently lodging at the Lorrimar's residence." With that, she nods and walks back, her mind and heart heavy.
Happy to have the band back together again!
As the group finishes its research and begins discussing its findings, Shanoa arrives at the house with two acolytes from the Temple of Pharasma.
I looked at the last couple of house spoilers just to see where people were so this makes sense. Hope that's ok.
Shanoa enters the house looking grim. She turns to the men with her, "His body is upstairs. Thank you again - it's..." she clears her throat. "Thank you." She draws close to where the group is studying over the files and speaks in a low voice. "I have dire news. We spoke with the deceased cultist and unlocked some secrets. The Whispering Way indeed was up to foul deeds at Harrowstone and released the undead that had been lurking there. What's strange is that Grimburrow said that they had searched the prison after the fire and found no trace of undead, but I was unable to ask him about that - the corpse sprung to life and attacked us, killing one of the acolytes and badly wounding Father Grimburrow before I was able to defeat it. He's alive but it may be some time before I can speak with him again.
"Also, I know what happened to Professor Lorrimar: he died of fright. It's possible there was some illusion magic at play, and I don't know if it was caused directly by the cultists, but based on the experience Karl had already I'd say anything's possible. If we do visit Harrowstone, we must be prepared."
Oorin is visibly startled. "Wait, you were able to talk to the corpse and then it animated and attacked you? I can't recall ever hearing of such a thing."
K: Arcana 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15
"Necromancy isn't really my strong point and I can't think of a spell that would duplicate the effect you've mentioned. It's almost as if the the corpse was possesed somehow..."
Looking at the vast collection of books and notes that cover the house, "I suppose another look through the Professor's journals couldn't hurt."
Turning to Karl, "So the Professor died of fright. Perhaps that was the intent of the apparition, presumably in the guise of The Lopper, at the barn. One of the townsfolk would certainly have fallen off the barn."
Shanoa nods. "We were only using a simple spell to communicate with the deceased, not animate it. There's no reason it should have behaved in that way - and you're right, it almost was like it was possessed - it could speak and everything. Maybe by one of the spirits that was released from the prison?"
|Karl the Bastard|
That might be a good question for this fortune-teller...
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
While you were battling the undead, we brought the Sheriff up to speed on our activities about town, but we didn't tell him about the false crypt, or the whispers. Also, Arthur and I are fairly certain that the Sheriff and Ms. Kendra are romantically involved. We might have to watch what we say around her from now on, just to be safe...
Sense Motive 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (18) + 1 = 19
Roland is looking over the information the group dug up on Father Charlatan when Shanoa returns. He senses something isn't quite right as she and the Pharasmans arrive, but before he can inquire, she explains the situation.
"...the corpse sprung to life and attacked us, killing one of the acolytes and badly wounding Father Grimburrow before I was able to defeat it."
Roland's jaw drops and he pales slightly.
"Wait, you were able to talk to the corpse and then it animated and attacked you? I can't recall ever hearing of such a thing."
"We were only using a simple spell to communicate with the deceased, not animate it. There's no reason it should have behaved in that way - and you're right, it almost was like it was possessed - it could speak and everything. Maybe by one of the spirits that was released from the prison?"
Hmmm... perhaps there is powerful magic at work? Or could a spirit from the prison indeed have possessed the body while on Pharasma's sanctified ground? Curious...
Knowledge (Religion) 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (19) + 5 = 24
Knowledge (Arcana) 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (12) + 13 = 25
"While you were battling the undead, we brought the Sheriff up to speed on our activities about town, but we didn't tell him about the false crypt, or the whispers. Also, Arthur and I are fairly certain that the Sheriff and Ms. Kendra are romantically involved. We might have to watch what we say around her from now on, just to be safe..."
"It seems, for the time being, that the only people we can trust implicitly are each other."
"Goodness, I spent most of the night in study - and with this morning's..." He trails off. "I don't know about everyone else, but I'm already exhausted."
The acolytes remove Michael's body from the house, information Shanoa that he will be prepared for burial at the Temple, and they will let her know when everything is ready. They also assure her someone will contact her as soon as Father Grimburrow is feeling better.
Noon approaches and Kendra has recovered enough to provide lunch for everyone. Meats, cheeses, and a variety of root vegetables from her cellar are placed on the table for all to enjoy. While she has recovered somewhat from her ordeal earlier in the day, it is obvious to all that she is still struggling a bit, but she makes an effort to smile and be a good hostess nonetheless.
As lunch ends, slightly after noon, a knock on the door draws everyone's attention. For some, the knock sounded ominous, for others, it seemed like a chill breeze blew through the house. Others just knew that "something" was happening.
Marta enters wearing a deep blue robe tied at the waist with a thick red cord. She grins as she sees the empty dishes on the table, "I see I arrived precisely on time."
Looking at the group, the smile fades from her face, "I will provide a Harrowing for any who so desire it. The petitioner must ask me a question, and I will use the cards to provide an answer. The answers may be direct and specific, or obscure and unintelligible, but they are all true. And make no mistake, I do not direct your fate, I only provide a window into what has past, what is now, and what shall be..."
She moves toward the table as the plates are cleared. Sitting at an open seat, she pulls forth a large deck of cards that she divides into six stacks in front of her. "Who is first? Who has a question for the Harrower?"
The table is a large rectangle with eight chairs, three to a side and one on each end. Placement is not critical, but if anybody is interested, I'm guessing she is in the middle seat on one side.
|The Slaughter Priest|
Marta listens to Arthur's question and repeats it softly, ”Where can we find the weapons to defeat the ghosts of the haunted prison?”
She looks at the stacks of cards in front of her, considering each. After several seconds, she selects two and places them before her. She repeats the question again, ”Where can we find the weapons to defeat the ghosts of the haunted prison?”
Marta chooses one of the decks, pushing the other to the side, and begins laying the cards face up on the table, three across, in three rows. With little preamble, she begins turning them over starting in the upper left corner and moving across, ”The Vision, The Idiot, The Inquisitor”.
Moving down to the second row, she continues, ”The Hidden Truth, The Rakshasa, The Joke”.
She peers at the last row for several seconds before turning them over. ”The Wanderer, The Foreign Trader…” Her voice catches and she audibly swallows before turning the last card. In a trembling voice, ”The Snakebite”. She quickly pulls her hand back from the card as soon as it’s turned.
Marta takes a few deep breaths before speaking again, ”My apologies, it is always trying when the strongest card is one of malice and woe… but we will discuss that soon.”
She moves her hand down the first row, ”None of these cards are in positions of strength, so they may reveal answers dealing with your question, or with yourself. The cards speak of a past that contains some arcane or esoteric knowledge. This knowledge, or one who possessed it, discovered something; something that others had overlooked.”
Moving to the second row, ”Likewise, these cards are in weak positions, especially The Idiot. They reveal current events, and may speak about you or your question. They show folly, greed, or poor decisions resulting in the domination of mind and body. But the domination itself is weak – lacking somehow. There is also the sign of spies or intelligence. Perhaps the dominated seek information? Or they have information to give?”
She grumbles to herself before speaking again, ”Now the final column. The Snakebite is the strongest card in this reading, as is in fact the only card in a strength position. That means it is even more important in this reading. By itself, it represents poison, venom, or discord within an evil mind or intelligence. Since it is a strong position, the cards are responding directly to your inquiry.”
”There is nothing you want for in order to face your foes, signified by the unyielding influence of The Inquisitor card. There is nothing else for you to discover in this regard. They are powerful, yes, but they are also subject to what they are – but not their existence as ghosts. The Joke indicates that they must be defeated by using who they were and what they did in life. Finally, The Snakebite. In this way, it means that there is poison and discord among the ghosts of Harrowstone. Though this card is an evil representation, the poision and discord that exists is in the evil you face.”
She sighs as she finishes her reading. ”That is all there is, please accept my blessing along with my reading.”
Marta gathers up her cards and retrieves the other decks, placing the six stacks before her on the table again. ”Who is next?”
Karl asks his question next, "Would finding the Whispering Way in Ravengro aid us in laying the Harrowstone ghosts to rest?"
Marta regards Karl as he speaks, then looks down at her cards. She selects one stack, pushes it forward, then removes the others. She closes her eyes and begins laying out the cards, forming a perfect three by three square on the table. Her eyes open as she examines the Harrow deal. She moves her hand over the cards, pausing over three of them.
”A strong reading, three cards in their positions, what is called an “Open Triangle”. It means you should expect significant growth and change from your past to your future. The path you think you follow today may be entirely different tomorrow. To the cards…”
She points at the first row, ”The Owl, The Eclipse, The Publican. In this position, The Publican is strong, indicating the image of the Cyclops on the card is important.”
”The second row shows The Queen Mother, The Carnival, and The Midwife. In this row, The Queen Mother is in its strongest position, indicating knowledge.”
Marta points toward the third row, ”The Mute Hag, The Winged Serpent, and in its strong position, The Lost. In this position, The Lost means those who are in a place for those who are lost – an asylum. Though The Lost is a terrible card in its position, its evil is offset by the good inherent on the top row in The Publican.”
She continues, ”Since the first row has a card in a strong position, it is relevant to your question. In the harsh order of nature, some knowledge allowed an evil to arise. This evil knew things, allowing it to make pacts of blood and promises of flesh. But this was in the past, giving you a vision of what came before…”
Marta moves her hand to the middle row. ”This row contains cards in weaker positions, so the reading may apply to your question, or to you. What it shows is doubt about an outcome, there are false images, something you are currently searching for… something you seek, there are false trails among the towers or city.”
She moves to the last row and her hands begin moving faster than before, her excitement becomes obvious as she speaks in a quicker staccato, ”Two cards in strong positions, The Publican above, and The Lost below – this is a powerful reading. There is someone, represented by the Cyclops image on the Publican card, who is insignificant, or an afterthought. But that person is relevant to your question, they must be identified for you to succeed. This person will enable the creation, or provide information about how to create, an asylum, or something related to those in an asylum.”
She pauses over the cards before gathering them up, ”There is nothing more to say, please accept my blessing with this reading.”
Marta smiles as Shanoa asks her question, “What is my destiny?”
The Harrower responds, ”A tough question, as only you can truly determine your destiny. I will try to answer, but I can usually reveal some important steps to guide you along the way.”
Marta separates one of the decks from the others and begins flipping them into the now familiar three by three square. ”Hmm, an interesting reading as there are elements of good and evil in each row, meaning that all columns are applicable to your question. You also have a strong card in The Marriage. It has many meanings, and they are especially insightful in its home position. It’s most applicable meaning in this case is that of a union, but not just any joining, it speaks of a union between two disparate entities. A salamander and water nymph, for example… “
She looks up at Shanoa, her eyes widening slightly, ”I see. It could also speak of a union between divinity and mortality, yes? That is what the first column shows – an agent of the gods with the potential for both good and ill. This agent has struggled against many things, misunderstandings, and sometimes violence. And one who must constantly battle against giving in to extreme emotions. Does that sound familiar?”
Smiling gently, she moves on, ”Your destiny is currently facing a crossroads, and you are being assailed by selfish ghosts of the past. They are envious of your life – literally, they hold much anger toward you just because you are alive and they are not. While facing these ghosts, you may encounter situations that cause indecision, but hold fast to your beliefs, and you will not only survive, but thrive from the conflict.”
”Finally, the last column, and likely the one most closely related to your question. The Courtesan indicates nobility and political intrigue, but these are facades – they are simply for show. The reality beneath the mask is a lord who seeks to destroy those whom he rules. As you begin to unravel this tangled web, you will be offered unexpected generosity from a strange source, and you must not turn the Unicorn’s help away when it is offered.”
Marta retrieves her cards, shuffles them again, and lays out the six stacks once more.
Oorin chimes in, "I'm opposed by the dead who walk and evil ones who have knowledge and arcane power that stretch back through the millennia; what is my best course of action to fight this threat?”
She peers at the six stacks before her for a few minutes. ”You pose an interesting question. Is it strength of arm, the power of the mind, or something else that should drive you? Perhaps the answer is all of them?”
Marta grins suddenly, ”Ah, I know… “she quickly selects on of the decks and lays out three in a row, ”The Survivor, The Teamster, The Desert. ”
She moves to the second row, ”The Trumpet, The Moutain Man, The Waxworks.” she says with a slight tremor in her voice as she lays down the last card.
Pausing slightly, you can tell she is focusing on the last card she laid. Without comment, she places the last three in order. She passes her hand over the cards, studying them intently.
After several minutes, Marta looks at Oorin, ”This is the most powerful, and therefore the most pertinent, reading I’ve presented so far. There is a card in a strong position in each of the columns, and therefore everything I say is either directly relevant to either you or your opponents. Take this first column, since the strong card is The Tangled Briar, an evil card, it’s meaning is clear. Your opponent is a figure or creature from history. That is to say, it was significant at some time in the past. It put itself into danger, and though many thought it destroyed, managed to survive.”
”The second row is likewise strong in evil.”She points at the bottom card in the middle, ”The Sickness represents everything that could harm a person’s body; corruption, plague, famine, disease. Your enemy has either suffered these, or caused these, to happen. These have caused other, secondary results, unforeseen by the original creator, resulting in a physical power beyond its ability to control.”
”In this last row, it is the card representing good that occupies the position of strength. You will face an environment that is impossible to survive without help. It will be a forgotten place of torture and unbelievable pain. It is in this place, you must become a creature of fire.”
She pulls the cards back and looks expectantly at Roland while laying the cards on the table before her.
Roland watches Marta shuffling her cards before speaking. Finally, he says, ” I had never put much stock into the old Pharasman teachings, but due to recent events, I am forced to re-evaluate old superstitions, including those surrounding prophecy. As such, I am curious - what does the future hold for my companions and I?"
Marta smiles, ”Similar to the others, but different enough to warrant another reading. For you, these cards shall provide your answer.” She moves one set to the front while moving the others to her right. She begins laying the cards down quickly, her eyes never leaving Roland.
When she looks down, she begins identifying the cards, ”Apparently the powers heard your question – the strongest card in this reading is The Juggler representing those who play with the fate of others.”
”You have another card that bears mentioning, The Rabbit Prince. It is a strange card that reveals the capriciousness of battle. It recognizes the place that chance has in outcomes, and that one may win or lose a fight by either skill or luck.”
”But for your reading, the cards revelation is such that the first column only contains information about your past. What we see is The Locksmith working over The Peacock while attending The Dance. This means that you have spent time unlocking the puzzle of your life, discovering beauty or power in the process. It also shows that you determined that through these discoveries, you have come to learn that some level of cooperation works best in your life, complicated though it may be at times.”
”The second column tells of travelers who came to a place planning to do violence. But their acts were not expected. They used traps or tricks to take something dearly loved by force. And though they did not commit murder to achieve their goals, they did kill before continuing on their journey.”
”Now for the last column, the strongest in your Harrow reading. It shows destiny, the destiny of you and your friends, not yet written. There are several outcomes, and while some are more likely than others, they all contain one similar aspect: your destiny is to oppose a disaster that will result in the destruction of everything we hold dear. But have faith, for much like a fight with a skilled opponent, you too can prepare – you will encounter many obstacles on your path forward, but all of these are placed before you to hone your edge, to train both your bodies and minds, for the confrontation which is to come.”
She smiles as she finishes. Gathering up her cards and placing them in a beaded bag, she bids farewell, ”I hope my words have given you the insight you desired, and I pray that you find the fate you seek. Have a blessed day.” She bows low and sees herself out.
After several minutes, a knock sounds at the front door. With a puzzled look around the room, Kendra moves to open the door, only to find Marta standing there. She greets everyone and says, ”Well, I see I arrived a bit late for your readings, my apologies. Who is first?”
Roland strokes his chin, trying to make sense of these portents.
Oppose a disaster that will result in the destruction of everything we hold dear... this sounds more dire and serious than we thought. And more far-reaching too...
His thoughts are interrupted by the knock at the door. Kendra answers.
"Well, I see I arrived a bit late for your readings, my apologies. Who is first?"
Roland frowns, confused.
"You, ah, completed our readings but a moment ago. You only just walked out the door."